On Wednesday I took what I somewhat teasingly refer to as a Mental Health Day. Jadyn had a doctor's appointment that morning, so I decided to take the day off to spend with her, rather than slaving away processing transcripts and withdrawal requests for the local community college population.
At the appointment, the doctor gushed with all sincerity about Jadyn being one of his absolute favorite patients (which he says every time, and every time I believe him). He couldn't believe she's 3 already and wished for her to be a baby again. Yeah, me too, some days.
After some shopping, craft painting and lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, we headed to the park for a little pre-nap energy explusion. (Read: play.) With trepidation I pulled into the parking lot, having noticed multiple minivans and SUVs already in place. These were elltale signs that a Stay-At-Home-Mothers group had decended upon the park. It was too late to turn around; I had already promised Jadyn some playtime.
Why was I bothered by this mommyfest? I used to be one of them, after all, trying to balance the right amount of activity, nutrition, education, play and naptime into our days. And that was just it. I no longer fit in the library, kindermusik, play date crowd. I'm a working mother now, full time. On days like these I loathe the situation, but for the time being I can't change it.
We walked up to the elaborate play apparati and I encouraged Jadyn to go play while found a bench on the other side of the playset, far away from the mommy clique. She was more interested in doing her own thing. That's great, I thought. I applaud her for her independence. But I saw how she watched the other little girls chase each other around the slide. Again, I encouraged her. "Go play with them, it's ok." She did join their ranks, albeit briefly, before returning to her own amusement on the monkey bars.
I was sad. She's a friendly kid, often walking up to complete strangers in the store to ask their name. I suddenly wondered if my inner struggle with shyness was rubbing off on her. I used to think I wasn't shy at all. As I child I was told I was outgoing so I figured it must be true. But as I got older and encountered more "real life", I allowed myself to be extroverted in certain comfortable scenarios, such as during performances. I'm scared to death to walk up to a stranger and introduce myself. It probably seems schizophrenic that I can live in front of a crowd on stage and cower at the thought of meeting one new person. But the more I "grow up", the more I realize the issues that plague me.
I didn't want to go talk to those moms. Not because I didn't think I'd like them. Not because I thought we'd have nothing in common. I've seen them around town and on occasion spoken to a few of them. That's not why I was afraid to talk to them. It was because I thought they'd reject me. Reject me for my weight. Reject me for my income (or lack thereof). Reject me for my clothing or hairstyle. Reject me for not staying home like they do.
Or even worse, ignore me completely, as though I were invisible.
I sat there worrying that Jadyn was becoming me faster than I could teach her otherwise. I felt my insecurity becoming hers by osmosis. At just that moment, Jadyn saw a little girl fall nearby. She rushed to her side, asking, "Are you OK?" She comforted the girl before returning to her own fun.
Her heart, her sweet, caring, compassionate heart, reached out. This is the girl who knows the names of every child not only in her class, but in most of the school. This is the girl who can't leave at the end of the school day without getting half a dozen hugs from friends. This is the girl whose name all the kids know, even in the younger and older classes. Is she perfect? Of course not. She's human, after all, and is bound to inherit a few trouble spots from Paul and I, and dear old Adam & Eve. But will she overcome her imperfection to become the best person she can possibly be?
I have no doubt. God has already started on her. Let's just hope I help the process, not hinder it.